Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered a defiant wartime message in Washington, DC, thanking US leaders and “ordinary Americans” for supporting their country’s fight against Russia and reminding them that assistance military to Ukraine was not “charity” but an “investment”. in a democratic world.
Invoking memories of the US victory over Nazi Germany in a key World War II battle, Zelenskyy also said there could be no “concessions” in trying to end Russia’s war against his country.
In his first trip out of Ukraine since the war began in February, Zelenskyy told a joint session of the US Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday that he hoped they would continue to support his country’s war effort in a bipartisan manner.
“Your money is not charity,” Zelenskyy said in English, dressed in his usual khaki uniform.
“It is an investment in global security and democracy,” he said.
His bipartisan appeal comes as Republicans will win a majority in the US House of Representatives in January and as some party members have raised concerns about rising levels of aid sent to Kyiv.
The US has so far sent about $50 billion in assistance to Kyiv, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced another $1.85 billion in military aid on Wednesday, including the Patriot air defense system. The Patriot missile system is considered one of the most advanced US air defense systems, offering protection against attacking aircraft as well as cruise and ballistic missiles.
Zelenskyy’s arrival was greeted with multiple raucous cheers in the nearly full Chamber of the House where members of Congress raised a large Ukrainian flag as he entered. Most stood up, cheered, applauded and many shook hands with Zelenskyy as he entered, several wearing the colors of the Ukrainian flag, blue and yellow.
“It is a great honor for me to be in the United States Congress and to speak to you and to all Americans. Against all pessimistic scenarios, Ukraine did not fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking,” she said.
“We defeated Russia in the battle for the minds of the world,” he added.
Referencing former US President Franklin D Roosevelt, who served from 1933 to 1945, Zelenskky reminded his audience of the difficulties faced by US forces fighting to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation during World War II.
“Just like the brave American soldiers, who held their lines and fought against Hitler’s forces during Christmas 1944, the brave Ukrainian soldiers are doing the same with Putin’s forces this Christmas,” he said.
The Ukrainian leader was referring to the Battle of the Bulge, which began in December 1944 and was Hitler’s last significant attempt to push back the Allied forces. Bad weather hampered initial US efforts to stop the offensive, resulting in many deaths and threatening to split the Allies, who ultimately prevailed.
In a tweet, Zelenskyy said that Ukraine’s victory over Russia “will also be the victory of the United States.”
I appreciate @POTUS for the warm welcome and I deeply appreciate all the support from the US and the American people. I am sure that together we can ensure a better, prosperous and free future for our two nations. The victory of Ukraine will also be the victory of the United States. pic.twitter.com/OhclRtwIJy
— Volodymyr Zelensky (@ZelenskyyUa) December 22, 2022
US President Joe Biden welcomed Zelenskyy to the Oval Office early Wednesday, saying the US and Ukraine would continue to project a “united defense” as Russia wages a “brutal attack on the right of Ukraine to exist as a nation.”
Zelenskyy said his visit showed that “the situation is under control, thanks to your support.”
Pressed on how Ukraine would try to end the conflict, Zelenskyy rejected Biden’s framework of a “just peace,” saying: “For me, as president, ‘just peace’ doesn’t mean compromises.”
He said the war would end once Ukraine’s sovereignty, freedom and territorial integrity were restored and Ukraine received “retribution for all damages inflicted by Russian aggression.”
“There can be no ‘just peace’ in the war imposed on us,” he added.
The highly sensitive trip comes after 10 months of a brutal war that has left tens of thousands of casualties on both sides and devastation to Ukrainian civilians and their cities, towns and villages.
Zelenskyy’s visit is designed to reinvigorate support for his country in the US and around the world, amid concerns that the allies are growing weary of costly warfare and the disruption of the world’s supply of food and energy.
Biden said Russia is “trying to weaponize winter, but the Ukrainian people continue to inspire the world.”
At a joint press conference, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “has no intention of stopping this cruel war.”
The two leaders appeared to share a warm rapport, laughing at each other’s comments and patting each other on the back during the visit, though Zelenskyy made it clear that he will continue to press Biden and other Western leaders for more military support.
He said that after the Patriot system is up and running, “we will send another signal to President Biden that we would like to have more Patriots.”
“We are at war,” Zelenskyy added with a smile, as Biden chuckled at the Ukrainian leader’s direct request.
Biden said it is “important to the American people and to the world to hear directly from you, Mr. President, about the Ukraine fight and the need to stick together through 2023.”
Zelenskyy’s arrival in the US comes just days after he made a daring and dangerous journey to what he called the hottest spot on the 800-mile (1,300-kilometer) war front line: the city of Bakhmut in the disputed Donetsk region of Ukraine.
Arriving there on Tuesday, Zelenskyy praised Ukrainian troops for their “courage, resilience and strength” as artillery raged in the background.
Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Kyiv-based think tank Penta Center, said Zelenskyy’s visit to the United States “should determine the course of the war: Zelenskyy for the first time dared to leave Ukraine and counts on being able to hold, and possibly even strengthen, the military and economic assistance of the United States”.
Putin told his country’s military leaders on Wednesday that Russia will achieve its stated goals in Ukraine and use combat experience to strengthen its military. His defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, said Russia’s army must be expanded from the current 1 million to 1.5 million for the fight in Ukraine.
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